Fact-Checking

As a fact-checker at Mother Jones and Sierra, I sifted through SEC filings; cold-called attorneys, government officials, and Missouri farmers; and scanned Google Earth. Here's a selection of articles I fact-checked.

Ready for Trump TV? Inside Sinclair Broadcasting’s plot to take over your local news

One evening in July, David Smith, the executive chairman of Sinclair Broadcast Group, strolled into the newsroom at WJLA, the ABC affiliate for Washington, DC, and the crown jewel of his company’s 193-station empire. Smith lacks the name recognition of Rupert Murdoch or the late Roger Ailes. But his company—with holdings concentrated in midsize markets like Tulsa, Flint, and Boise—owns more television stations than any other broadcaster in the country, reaching 2 out of every 5 American homes.

Under the Gun: An Investigation Into the Murder of Berta Cáceres

On Friday, June 30, men wielding machetes attacked Bertha Zúñiga—the daughter of slain indigenous environmental activist Berta Cáceres—as she and colleagues traveled a road in the Honduran countryside. At around 2:30 pm on June 30, Zúñiga—along with Sotero Chavarría and José Asención Martínez, members of the coordinating committee of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras, known by its Spanish acronym, COPINH—were traveling to COPINH’s offices in La Esperanza from a community meeting when three men brandishing machetes in the air tried to block the road.

7 years before Russia hacked the election, someone did the same thing to these scientists

One Saturday morning in June, two days after the president had announced his intention to withdraw the United States from the landmark Paris climate agreement, Michael Mann was tweeting about Donald Trump. Mann, a Penn State professor who is one of the world’s most prominent climate scientists, was thinking about the daily barrage of revelations surrounding Russia’s efforts to help Trump win the previous year’s election. The hacked Democratic documents posted on WikiLeaks. The media craze over private emails that had been ripped out of context. Smear campaigns circulating on social media.

A brief history of witch hunts, real and imagined

In 16th- and 17th-century Europe, tens of thousands of women were rounded up and slaughtered for being outcasts in some of society’s earliest witch hunts. But fast-forward to 2017, and suddenly it’s rich white guys who are co-opting the term. After numerous allegations of sexual harassment surfaced about film executive Harvey Weinstein, his pal Woody Allen warned in an interview with the BBC that we might be heading into “a witch hunt atmosphere, a Salem atmosphere, where every guy in an office who winks at a woman is suddenly having to call a lawyer to defend himself.”

Iowa just gutted Planned Parenthood and the results are brutal

When Phoebe McNeece showed up at the community health center in her small town in Southeast Iowa a few days after New Years 2012, the last thing she wanted to hear was that she was pregnant. Uninsured and unable to afford her medication, she was becoming increasingly anxious and depressed. She was struggling to keep her job, which meant she was behind on the mortgage on the little house she’d bought three years prior. And now, here she was, telling this doctor that she really hoped that home test she had taken was just a false positive.

Escaping a wildfire and fighting to stay here

When he first smelled smoke, Luis just thought a neighbor was having a barbecue. But the scent lingered, and the 25-year-old aspiring neuroscientist soon learned that a forest fire was barreling straight toward his home in Santa Rosa, California. He dashed out the front door, jumped in his Saturn, and sped toward the highway through fumes so thick they swallowed his headlights. Within hours, Sonoma County’s Tubbs Fire—the most destructive blaze in the state’s history—would incinerate the house Luis shared with his father, sister, and grandparents, as well as about 2,900 of his neighbors’ homes.

The music I love is a racial minefield

Last winter, about 10 months before Donald Trump managed to revive Colin Kaepernick’s protest movement and set off a fresh national debate on race, patriotism, and the emotional stability of the president of the United States, Ben Hunter was asked to perform “The Star-Spangled Banner” for a crowd of about 600 people. The occasion was the annual conference of Citizen University, a nonprofit run by former Clinton White House adviser Eric Liu. Presenters at the meeting included progressive authors and activists, broadcasters and businesspeople. Slow-food guru Alice Waters was on the bill, as was Greenpeace top dog Annie Leonard. Hunter was the event’s musician-in-residence. But the anthem request gave him pause.

You won't change your cranky conservative uncle over Thanksgiving dinner

Last October, shortly before the election, I came across a startling photo from Oakland, California, circa 1969. Two men stood side by side: a black guy in a beret and leather jacket and a white guy in a denim vest emblazoned with the Confederate flag. The white guy was part of the Young Patriots, a group made up of poor white Southerners. The black guy was a Black Panther. The two organizations, along with a Puerto Rican group called the Young Lords, had formed what they called the Rainbow Coalition—a name Jesse Jackson would revive and popularize 15 years later.

China’s Crazy Plan to Keep Sand From Swallowing the World

The view from the top of this windblown hill in Duolun County, in China’s Inner Mongolia region, could be described as either profoundly inspiring or deeply strange. For miles around, the earth is dun-colored and dry, stubbled with yellow grass. But the hillsides directly across from me are emblazoned with vast swaths of trees planted in geometric shapes: a square, a circle, overlapping triangles. The flatland below is striped with bands of identical young pines, standing in rigid formation like soldiers on parade.

How to Be an Islander

It was the summer of the birds. In late June, my two kids and I took the ferry from Seattle to a small, remote patch of land in the San Juan Islands, where our family's A-frame cabin sits on an empty stretch of beach. Late winter and spring had been warmer than usual, and many eggs had hatched early. The day we arrived, we found a swallow's nest in the center of an inner tube on the deck. Raven fledglings squawked from the forest. The baby owls screeched at night as if they were hunted prey.

Al Gore Ditches the Slideshow for a Fired-Up "Inconvenient Sequel"

IN 2006, SELF-DESCRIBED recovering politician Al Gore put climate change squarely on humanity's doorstep with An Inconvenient Truth. The breakthrough documentary netted $49.8 million and two Academy Awards along with accusations that Gore had veered into hyperbole. Critics, including politicians, panned an animated sequence suggesting that melting ice sheets would one day leave New York City's September 11 memorial submerged.

Environmental News ICYMI

Winter 2016–17 temperatures in the Arctic are abnormally warm—as much as 35°F above normal on several occasions. A crack in Antarctica's Larsen C ice shelf grows to 110 miles long. It will eventually shear off an iceberg the size of Delaware. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts a worst-case increase in global sea level of eight feet by the end of the century. Two weeks of torrential rains in January raise California's Lake Tahoe by a foot and a half.
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